Trying to Like Polenta… And Failing

by Lisa on Thursday: Jan 10, 2013

Last weekend I made a new recipe – the first new recipe of the new year! – and it came out pretty great, for the most part. After flipping through my huge stack of cookbooks that day, I just kept coming back to eggplant recipes, and I finally gave in and picked one: the eggplant and polenta casserole from Forks over Knives.

The recipe called for two whole eggplants, and the ones I ended up with were gigantic. I cut up the first one and found that it barely fit into the absolute largest skillet I own. I figured I would stop there and just make the recipe with one eggplant since it looked like a massive amount of food, but this first one cooked down so much, it barely looked like enough for a meal! Funny how that works out. In the end, I ended up just cooking the eggplant in two batches, and it seemed to work out just fine.

Now, polenta is one of those foods that I’ve wanted to like for a long time. I’ve cooked it twice before – once for another recipe and a second time just as a side dish by itself. Both of those times, I thought it tasted kind of odd and dry, even with cheese mixed in. I figured I’d give it another try this time around, since it always sounds like such a great thing to eat.

Let me tell you, cooking that polenta was no picnic. It got incredibly thick quickly, and the package I had on hand needed to be cooked for 30 minutes, and whisked pretty much the whole time. About 5-6 minutes in, it felt like I was mixing cement. I followed the instructions as far as the water to polenta ratio was concerned, so I’m still not sure if I actually am doing something wrong, or if it’s supposed to be that way.

But again, the taste just seemed weird to me. I really want to like polenta, but it just doesn’t seem to be working out!

On the flip side, the eggplant mixture was delicious, and if I make this recipe again, maybe I’ll make some sort of different starch to go on top. There is a possibility that it’s just me though, because D ate the polenta from this dish and seemed to really enjoy it.

I’m happy I’ve started the year off with a new recipe, and I’m looking forward to making a few more that I’ve bookmarked, but I’m still mystified by what the polenta problem is.

Do you like polenta? Any tips for cooking it/making it taste better??

7 Responses to “Trying to Like Polenta… And Failing”

  1. Christina says:

    Ha! I just had to google polenta…I didn’t even know what it was lol! The eggplant sounds good, though I have to admit I’ve never actually eaten eggplant.

    Good for you trying new recipes!! Glad to see you on the GtKY hop =)

  2. Dagmar says:

    I like polenta. Sometimes I let it thicken and cool and cut it into stripes to brown on both sides. But I also like it soft, with herbs and soy cream or soy crème fraîche mixed in. I think if you find the right mix of herbs, cream or cheese, it should become better. But if you don’t like it – cook something else! :-)
    And I agree – 25 to 30 minutes? No way! I never cook it for longer than 5 minutes!

  3. Dagmar says:

    Oh, and I LOVE fried eggplant!

  4. Rosey says:

    I haven’t tried it, but I do love the idea of fried eggplant!

  5. Denise says:

    I tried out the eggplant polenta from Forks over Knives too and got the same feeling from it! I chose to make this one for two reasons, 1) I’m a fan of eggplant and 2) I had no idea what polenta was and I’m all for trying new and different things. From all of this, I learned that polenta is a PAIN to make and is gross… even when mixed with my beloved eggplant. Lesson learned! :) I’m anxious to try some others from this cookbook. I tried the Moussaka just last week and even my picky kids liked it! That one’s definitely a keeper.

  6. Betsy says:

    I have made this same recipe twice and am pleased with the results both times. :) I did make a couple changes to the recipe: I only used one gigantic eggplant instead of two, and I did use olive oil to fry it all up. I cooked it all in a cast iron pan and then added the polenta on top when I was finished. I then threw the whole thing in the oven for the 30 minutes.

    As far as the polenta, I did not cook it for 30 minutes. I had never cooked it before, but when I noticed it was getting very thick, after about 10+ minutes, I just turned it off and let it sit making sure it didn’t turn into a complete solid. I added a decent amount of salt and black pepper and a bit of olive oil, too. I then scooped it all on top of the eggplant mixture and followed the recipe from there.

    Polenta is a bit bland, but I try to pretend it is like cornbread. I am thinking of adding some ground nuts to the polenta next time to give it more flavor and calories.

  7. Betsy says:

    Oh, one more thing: I just made the polenta using plain corn meal and water. Again, very bland, but adding flax seed or your favorite ground nuts may be tasty. :)

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